Hi. My name is Paula Hall, and I am pleased to deliver this week's Democratic radio address. I'm a child-care provider in Spokane, Washington.
My husband and I worked hard all our lives to get the American dream. But we never thought it could slip away so easily.
Six years ago I got a call that changed our lives forever. My husband was hanging onto his life after being hurt very badly on the job. He would never be able to work again.
Six months after that, we lost our health care. I was now the sole provider for our family, and we had no way of paying for the physical therapy and medicine my husband needed.
I worked 14-hour days and barely made enough for our mortgage payments. To afford the bare necessities, I went to night school to get a weekend job that paid more than the minimum wage.
I don't know how I managed it, but I had clearly worn my body out. In 2005, I had an emergency triple bypass that failed. In the next 17 months, I had nine angioplasties and five stents placed in my heart.
Then came the bills. With no insurance, we had no way to pay the hundreds of thousands of dollars it took to save my life. We had no way to pay for the medicine and no way to pay our mortgage with me out of work.
To try and save the house we raised our daughter in, we used up all our savings, cashed in what little my husband had for retirement, and sold anything of value.
Unfortunately it wasn't enough. We had to file for bankruptcy, and we lost our home. Every day, we don't know if we can make the rent or even buy food. I never thought my life would be like this.
Nobody should have to lose everything because they don't have health care. What's scarier is that more and more families have similar stories.
But I feel like there is finally some hope for a better future. Child-care providers in Washington united together with SEIU to fight for paychecks that support a family and provide affordable health care.
And last November we elected a new Congress to change direction and take on the challenges families like mine face every day.
The Democrats we elected are already making a difference in our families' lives. When you have to choose between rent and food, you shouldn't have to worry about affording gas to get to the grocery store. But Democrats passed an energy bill that will help bring prices down.
Democrats also passed the first minimum-wage increase in 10 years. Raising the minimum wage won't make anyone rich, but it will help hard-working people take home a little more each month.
Just this week, Congress ensured that more children like my daughter can get health care when their parents can't afford it by approving the Children's Health Insurance Program. President Bush has threatened a veto, but health care for children is too important to play politics with.
My daughter has been very brave. In fact, the only time she says much about our situation is when she talks about college. But we don't have a penny saved; it all went to try to save the house and keep food on the table. She'll need loans.
Thankfully Congress has passed the largest student-assistance program since 1944. It increases aid eligibility and offers loan forgiveness for students like my daughter who want to teach or do other public-service work.
Democrats also passed a child-tax credit that might help us raise our kids and put money away for college.
Things might not have worked out as planned for my family, but we haven't lost hope. I think Democrats get it: If you work hard and do what's right, you should earn a paycheck that supports a family and provides health care, a secure retirement and a better future for all kids.
I'm Paula Hall from Spokane, Washington, and this has been the weekly Democratic radio address. Thanks for listening to my story, and have a great weekend.